MSNBC Live, 3/1/13, 7:00 PM ET

Richard Haass and MSNBC’s Alex Witt Talk Office Politics

MSNBC’s Alex Witt sits down with President of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass to talk about the administration's drone policy - and whether the public deserves more information on that. She begins by asking him about the notion that the...

What are the moral justifications for drone strikes?


In a new interview, a leading foreign relations analyst says America must use drones to strike terrorists in any country that is unwilling or unable to arrest or stop them.

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, spoke with msnbc’s Alex Witt in an “Office Politics” segment and defended the Obama administration’s controversial targeted killing program as a practical strategy in combating terrorism.

“We want to stop these people before they do something destructive against us and drones are simply one of the tools in the kitbag,” he said.

The Obama administration has been criticized for relying increasingly on targeted killings while operating behind a veil of secrecy. A confidential Justice Department memo unearthed by NBC News’ Michael Isikoff last month further exposed the program, showing the U.S. government condoned the killing of American citizens believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida.

Haass, who served as a top adviser to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, says moral concerns behind using drones are part of any use of force. He said he’s not sure there’s anything fundamentally different morally between using the drone or a cruise missile.

“In the case of the drones, we don’t want to alienate populations, we don’t want to alienate governments by going after somebody,” Haass said. “So what we really want to ask ourselves is is this person really essential to get. Is this a high value target, are we really confident we are going to get him?”

Haass also emphasized the need to get targets without hurting innnocents, and inspiring future terrorists.

“Is this going to convince a lot of young men to make the career choice to become a terrorist? Is this going to make a government much less likely or able to work with us? We have to factor all that in and some occasions we may say ‘You know what, it’s still worth doing this.’ On other occasions we are gonna say, ‘No. It’s not worth doing this.’”

What are the moral justifications for drone strikes?